Friday, May 27, 2022

When I go there

Created by master miniature artist 'Ryu Seung Ho', South Korea.

I was waiting to go to a meeting this morning and the news of the world was getting me down and social media was doing no better. I switched over to Pinterest which at times can serve a bit like a weighted blanket for my psyche. The AI curated images filled the page and the above image was one of them. My jaw clenched in excitement and my palms began to sweat. I had to look closer... oh my heaven what is this? For a minute I didn't know what I was looking at - is this a painting? Is this a photo, wait - what is this? I slowed down and realised it was a miniature, a 3D model, and then expertly photographed to imply scale, space, and atmosphere. 

I had to share it on Facebook because to me it felt good, it brought me joy and nourishment. I wrote "...a wondrous image... The light and everything in the space sing songs back and forth to invite you in. What a composition." And then I got on with my day. 

Later (after another superb Scottish Artists Union meeting), I checked Facebook and my friend and patron, Rosa Macpherson (who once inspired a whole body of work simply with a comment) had written under the above image"Could you give a little explanation of your views on your weekly blog? I’d love to know more and what you see in the light that makes it sing songs… how this miniature world speaks to you?"

And so here we are. It is a good exercise to put these feelings and thoughts into words - to slow down and explain myself. 

First, let's go back to my initial reaction to this image. This for me, is a gut punch to the senses because I don't just view this world- I get sucked into it and suddenly I am in the light, I am in the space, I feel the air - I feel the heavy shadows. These lines are crisp- they are talking. The miniature modelling is done to perfection, but the photography and light really bring the scene to life so that we can go there. Viewing this image is like playing with a dollhouse as a child but we don't play with a dollhouse, do we? We go inside it, move the furniture, and live there as long as possible. These types of images have an incredible effect on me. 

For me, the light is sentimental, hot, and harsh. I feel nostalgia for a place I have never been. Ryu Seung Ho's work calls to my mind several of my favourite artists shown below. Can you see or feel a connection?

Wayne Thiebaud (American, b. 1920.) 24th Street Intersection Study, 1978.
Watercolor on paper, 10 x 14 in./25.4 x 35.5 cm. © Wayne Thiebaud.

Richard Diebenkorn’s Cityscape #1, 1963. Illustration:
2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Gregory Crewdson, Starkfield Lane, 2018–19,
digital pigment print, 56 ¼ × 94 ⅞ inches (127 × 225.7 cm)

Edward Hopper, Rooms by the Sea, 1951, Oil on canvas
29 1/4 × 40 in. (74.3 × 101.6 cm)
Bequest of Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903
Yale University Art Gallery

I feel that these pieces share a certain lineage and understanding of time, space, and light as well as shadow and line. The artists use these elements to pull us into the image and help us to create a narrative.

Looking back to the original image and the "singing" that I referenced... 

Ryu Seung Ho

This artist knows the power of the diagonal and the photographer and or the person responsible for this crop knows the rule of thirds. The metal frame chair in the foreground pulls you into the scene and then shoots you from the foreground to the desk chair and then up the blue wall to the light cutting across into another diagonal. These are all brilliant methods of encouraging our eye to move through the space which then allows our brain to inhabit it as well. The harsh shadows and lines are pulling and (yes I would say, singing, vibrating, calling, summoning us) to come in in in. I have to write it like that in hopes that it helps you feel the way it might feel in my brain when I see this image. In, In, In, - to this emphatic, yearning, real-time - space. Look at the slant of the shoeshine box - pulling you in. Look at the shadow of the safe, pulling you in. The line across the blue and white wall is pulling you into the back corner. 

Now we have to remember that this is actually a 3D space in miniature, that has then been reduced to a photograph, but it has such painterly attributes that it is very hard for me to not think of it as such. The colour is doing double duty here as well. Look at that orange oxide in the right corner and then skip over again to the warm colour of the wood in the shoeshine box and then the cool grey-blue of the metal desk and then bam! back up the blue wall. In, In, In. This piece serves as a colour study as well, and nothing is an accident. I mean that green box on the corner of the desk - it just makes me want to cry - it works in tonal perfection with the desk. 

These lines and shadows are songs, these are stories, and these colours are sensibilities served with particular punctuation. Composition is key in this world yet just dishevelled enough to be believed but also meticulously planned so that it hits all the sweet spots in our brains. Well, in my brain. But also can't you just feel it? Or hear it? 

Singing, crackling, and dynamic - in this work I have gone somewhere unexpected, and through it, I can see my own world anew.

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